Over the next three years, the California Reconnect coalition will mobilize up to 30 colleges to help thousands of state residents with some college, no degree re-enroll in higher education
SACRAMENTO (December 8, 2022) — Thousands of working adults across the Golden State who have stopped out of college will benefit from personalized support and coaching to help them re-enroll in higher education, thanks to a new statewide campaign called California Reconnect aimed at helping adult learners return to college and earn a degree.
Through a network of mission-driven coalition partners that includes California Competes: Higher Education for a Strong Economy California, InsideTrack, the Institute for Higher Education Policy and ProjectAttain!, the campaign will connect with students who have stopped out of college, support learners on the pathway to re-enrollment, help learners re-enroll, and work with institutions to implement policies and practices that support college completion and improved career opportunities.
“Helping adult learners return to and complete degrees and credentials is an equity, economic, and civic engagement imperative for the state of California,” said Su Jin Jez, executive director of California Competes. “This is about giving working adults the resources and fresh start they need to achieve their educational and career goals. It’s about helping them attain the skills and credentials needed to access rewarding careers that will lift up themselves, their families, their communities, and the state.”
Four million Californians ages 25 to 54 have a high school diploma and some college credit, but never completed an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 40% of all jobs in the state by 2030 will require a bachelor’s degree. Even as a growing number of good-paying jobs in California’s economy require education or training beyond high school, current projections show that the state is on pace to miss this goal by 1.1 million college degrees.
California Reconnect will work with up to 30 colleges and universities across the state, with a special focus on economically-distressed regions hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help more working adults in California earn degrees and credentials of value, the campaign will use a multi-pronged approach to help each student navigate the complex, and often daunting, process of returning to higher education after stopping out.
Because data show that most re-enrolled students never return to their original institution or even the same institutional sector, California Reconnect will take an institution-agnostic approach. Modeled with the regional initiative launched by ProjectAttain!, a collaboration of colleges and universities working to increase educational attainment in the Sacramento metropolitan area, the program will focus on students’ career goals and current life circumstances and direct them to institutions that fit best with their needs and interests.
“Returning to complete a degree or certificate is a critical decision for adult learners,” said Dr. Jenni Murphy, Founder of ProjectAttain! and Dean for the College of Continuing Education at Sacramento State. “As practitioners, we are keenly aware of the specific barriers adult learners face and were pleased to serve in the State Liaison role for Degrees When Due because every adult counts. In fact, returning adults are well poised to be one part of the talent solution for the jobs of today while we continue to prepare youth for the jobs of tomorrow.”
The Institute for Higher Education Policy’s (IHEP’s) degree mining tool will support the process of identifying and re-engaging returning students. Built through IHEP’s Degrees When Due Initiative, a national network of more than 190 institutions in 23 states, this free, online system is designed to help institutions identify former students with a significant number of college credits, including those who have earned degrees that have not yet been awarded and students who are a few credits shy of earning a degree.
“Higher education offers a path to a better living and a better life – but only if students are able to complete college and earn a valuable degree,” said IHEP President and CEO, Mamie Voight. “There are many reasons students may need to stop out from higher education, and that means they stop short of the workplace advancement, economic security, and social mobility a degree can provide. We’re proud to join this partnership and use equity-centered and data-informed approaches to support both today’s students and tomorrow’s by identifying, re-enrolling, and reengaging stopped-out students to support them across the degree finish line.”
Professional coaches from InsideTrack will lead outreach and student support efforts offering enrollment support and career coaching to ensure that returning students choose institutions and academic programs that align with their career interests, available time and learning needs. Building on its more than two decades of experience working with adult learners and helping adult learners return to and complete higher education, InsideTrack also will support students in developing academic and financial plans to help returning students succeed in school while balancing full- or part-time jobs and other commitments.
“While returning students often bring with them the benefit of powerful motivations and lived experiences, the very nature of being an adult student means they likely are balancing family, work, school, and other commitments,” said Kai Drekmeier, co-founder and chief development officer at InsideTrack. “This is about providing these high-potential students with the sort of personalized coaching and support that can help eliminate barriers to completion—and social and economic mobility.”
A key component of California Reconnect will include supporting institutions in their efforts to remove barriers for returning students. This includes strategies such as reducing or waiving unpaid fees that prevent students from registering, facilitating the timely release of transcripts from their former institutions, offering wrap-around services, awarding credit for prior learning and other high-impact practices that previously have helped adult students successfully complete their college journeys.
The campaign will also surface new data and insights that will inform the development of effective campus programs and public policy. Over the next three years, California Reconnect will share learnings from the re-enrollment program with state policymakers and compile data, insights and best practices that can help similar efforts on other college campuses to scale up. California Competes will also work to capture and document the voices of returning students in an effort to better understand and highlight the challenges and needs that working learners face.
California Reconnect is supported through generous financial support from ECMC Foundation and Strada Education Network. For institutions and other interested parties looking for more information on California Reconnect, visit our website.
About California Competes: Higher Education for a Strong Economy: California Competes: Higher Education for a Strong Economy is a nonpartisan policy and research organization focused on identifying solutions to California’s most critical higher education and workforce issues. Through its rigorous research, California Competes advises decision makers on implementing policies that bolster equity so every Californian can engage, contribute, and succeed. For additional information, please visit www.californiacompetes.org, and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.
About ECMC Foundation: ECMC Foundation is a Los Angeles-based, nationally focused foundation whose mission is to improve higher education for career success among underserved populations through evidence-based innovation. It is one of several affiliates under the ECMC Group enterprise based in Minneapolis. ECMC Foundation makes investments to remove barriers to postsecondary completion; build the capacity of institutions, systems and organizations; and transform the postsecondary ecosystem using a spectrum of funding structures, including strategic grantmaking and program-related investments, to support both nonprofit and for-profit ventures. Working with grantees, partners and peers, ECMC Foundation’s vision is for all learners to unlock their fullest potential. Learn more about ECMC Foundation by visiting www.ecmcfoundation.org and ECMC Group by visiting www.ecmcgroup.org.
About InsideTrack: InsideTrack is passionate about helping all learners achieve their education and career goals through the transformative power of coaching. Since 2001, we’ve served 2.9 million learners, partnering with more than 300 institutions and organizations to directly improve enrollment, persistence, completion and career readiness. Our coaching methodology is evidence-based and research-confirmed, with proven outcomes for every type of learner — from traditional to adult, part-time to full-time, online to in-person — including first-generation students and those who face systemic barriers to postsecondary success. We also work with partners to build internal coaching capacity through staff training and professional services — designed to sustain advances in-house for lasting, scalable impact. InsideTrack is a part of Strada Collaborative, a mission-driven nonprofit. To learn more, visit www.insidetrack.org and follow us on Twitter @InsideTrack and LinkedIn @InsideTrack
About the Institute for Higher Education Policy: The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research, policy, and advocacy organization committed to promoting postsecondary access and success for all students, regardless of race, background, or circumstance. Established in 1993, IHEP provides timely, evidence-based, and student-centered research to inform policy decisions and address our nation’s most pressing education challenges. Visit www.ihep.org to learn more about IHEP’s research, leadership, and experts.
About ProjectAttain!: ProjectAttain! is a social impact organization located in Sacramento, California focused on decreasing equity gaps, attainment gaps, and skills gaps. The goal is to close the talent gap and improve attainment among under-credentialed adults to 60% by 2030. Specifically, ProjectAttain! is a service organization that reengages adults who have stopped out of their education, a convener of cross-sector organizations and leaders focused on issues concerning adult learners, a catalyst for systems change to help institutions become adult-friendly and focused, and a backbone for educational collaborations in the region.
About Strada Education Network: Strada Education Network is a national nonprofit dedicated to helping people take advantage of education and training after high school that helps them secure a good job, do meaningful work, contribute to their communities, and lead a fulfilling life. Strada helps students succeed beyond completion of a certificate or degree through its research, charitable grants, and social impact investments, as and through the work of Strada-supported nonprofit organizations CAEL, Education at Work, InsideTrack, and Roadtrip Nation, which directly serve learners and workers. Learn more at stradaeducation.org.